MIAMI — According to Nikkei.com, Delta Air Lines has decided to offer to sponsor Skymark Airlines by participating in a proposed restructuring plan under which the American carrier would take less than 20% stake in the Japanese low-cost carrier.
Skymark, which bankrupted last January after running out of money, failed to materialize its expansion plans that climaxed in not taking up the first two Airbus A380 aircraft out of an order of six placed in November 2010. The subsequent cancellation of the order escalated in a legal claim that further complicated the efforts of the troubled airline in restructure its finances.
Skymark proposed a restructuring plan naming All Nippon Airways (ANA) as a sponsor. However, negotiations between Intrepid Aviation, Skymark’s main creditor, and ANA seem to have broken off, leading Intrepid to offer an alternate plan excluding the Japanese carrier.
During the last five years, Delta Air Lines has been expanding its network through offshore investments. Back in 2011 the airline acquired a 4% stake in AeroMexico and 3% ownership in Brazil’s GOL, hence gaining access to two of the largest markets in Latin America. Lately, in 2013, it formalized the acquisition of a 49% stake in Virgin Atlantic.
It seems that Delta intends to access (again) to the Japanese domestic market dominated by Japan Air Lines (oneworld) and ANA (Star Alliance). In 2009, Delta and Japan Air Lines attempted to negotiate a Joint Venture that would provide SkyTeam a very much needed member in Japan. However, JAL opted to keep its alliance with American Airlines, and Delta lost access to JAL’s premium routes and the passengers that come with them.
If this proposal is materialized, Delta would be granted with 8% of the domestic slots in Tokyo’s Haneda Airport, a topic that according to Nikkei has been called a “matter of national interest”, so opening up to foreign participation will likely be controversial for some groups.
The Atlanta-based carrier will only hold less than 20% of the voting rights of Skymark, pursuant to regulations on ownership of new carriers with domestic slots at Haneda. For the remainder, Intrepid is seeking investors such as Tokyo-based Integral investment fund, which also happens to be a sponsor in the proposal involving ANA.